Cirrhosis

  • Alternative Names

    Liver cirrhosis; Cryptogenic chronic liver disease


    Treatment

    All patients with cirrhosis can benefit from certain lifestyle changes, including:

    • Stop drinking alcohol.
    • Limit salt in the diet.
    • Eat a nutritious diet.
    • Get vaccinated for influenza, hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and pneumococcal pneumonia (if recommended by your doctor).
    • Tell your doctor about all prescription and nonprescription medications, and any herbs and supplements you take now or are thinking of taking.

    Other treatment options are available for the complications of cirrhosis:

    • Bleeding varices -- upper endoscopy with banding and sclerosis
    • Excess abdominal fluid (ascites) -- take diuretics, restrict fluid and salt, and remove fluid (paracentesis)
    • Coagulopathy -- blood products or vitamin K
    • Confusion or encephalopathy -- lactulose medication and antibiotics
    • Infections -- antibiotics

    A procedure called transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS) is sometimes needed for bleeding varices or ascites.

    When cirrhosis progresses to end-stage liver disease, patients may be candidates for a liver transplant.


    Support Groups

    You can often ease the stress of illness by joining a support group whose members share common experiences and problems. See liver disease - support group.


    Expectations (prognosis)

    Cirrhosis is caused by irreversible scarring of the liver. Once cirrhosis develops, it is not possible to heal the liver or return its function to normal. It is a serious condition that can lead to many complications.

    A gastroenterologist or liver specialist (hepatologist) should help evaluate and manage complications. Cirrhosis may result in the need for a liver transplant.


    Complications
    • Bleeding disorders (coagulopathy)
    • Buildup of fluid in the abdomen (ascites) and infection of the fluid (bacterial peritonitis)
    • Enlarged veins in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines that bleed easily (esophageal varices)
    • Increased pressure in the blood vessels of the liver (portal hypertension)
    • Kidney failure (hepatorenal syndrome)
    • Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma)
    • Mental confusion, change in the level of consciousness, or coma (hepatic encephalopathy)

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if:

    • You develop symptoms of cirrhosis

    Call your provider, go to the emergency room, or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if you have:

    • Abdominal or chest pain
    • Abdominal swelling or ascites that is new or suddenly becomes worse
    • A fever (temperature greater than 101 °F)
    • Diarrhea
    • New confusion or a change in alertness, or it gets worse
    • Rectal bleeding, vomiting blood, or blood in the urine
    • Shortness of breath
    • Vomiting more than once a day
    • Yellowing skin or eyes (jaundice) that is new or suddenly becomes worse